If you’re like me, traveling is surely at the top of your bucket list. Those who travel often know that safety is important, especially when travelling alone. Even the most innocent looking menu or lost wallet can be a sneaky ploy to steal your money or passport. While traveling to an unfamiliar place, you must always be on your guard. The people you’ll meet are fundamentally good (except for the ones who snatch your credit card, of course). Scams can come in several shapes and forms. From getting ridiculously overcharged on cab rides to unknowingly revealing credit card information; we are listing the top 7 common scams that you always need to keep an eye out for.
1. Broken taxi meter.
The broken taxi meter is a popular scam that mostly takes place around airports or train stations. Only after you have entered the vehicle and started to move, will the driver inform you of the broken meter. Once arriving at the destination, the driver will give you a ridiculous bill. Drivers loathe to pay fees charged by credit cards; which is why their machine may be conveniently “broken”.
How to avoid it: Before entering the vehicle, check the meter. If you encounter a taxi with a “broken” meter, negotiate rates ahead of time. If the driver refuses to turn the meter on or tells you it’s cheaper without the meter, opt for another cab. Not all cabbies are scammers.
2. Count your change.
When you’re in an unfamiliar place, there will always be someone ready to take advantage of you. A common scam pulled by vendors and taxi drivers is give you the wrong change. They might smile at you and act friendly, but at the same time, they are trying to trick you. This method is an easy way to steal a couple of bucks here and there.
How to avoid it: We might feel the need to take the change and get out their way but it’s always best to count it before you leave. These short-change artists make thousands every year by pulling off this stunt.
3. The friendship bracelet.
In areas like Paris’ Sacre Coeur, the gesture of friendship starts out innocently. People traveling alone will be approached by a man who will place some string around their wrist and begin weaving a bracelet. No matter how much they try to stop them, they won’t let them go. This could be slightly intimidating and they will resist if you attempt to pull away. Once the bracelet is completed, the man will expect the person to pay for what the bracelet is worth; which is whatever he thinks he can get from them.
How to avoid it: The easiest way to avoid this scam is to smile and keep walking past with your hands in your pockets. If you see someone coming your way with strings, be prepared to assertively say you are not interested and pull away. A blogger who faced the situation explains that you can also offer a couple of Euros and explain they can have the bracelet back if that’s not good enough.
4. The “found-a-ring” distraction.
Europe is famous for one of the most common scams known as the “found-a-ring” distraction. The form of scam comes in many varieties. Unwary travelers would be approached by an innocent looking person, often dressed as a fellow tourist. The man/woman will stop you and point to a ring on the ground. They will then proceed to ask if the ring is yours. When you say that it’s not, they will pick it up and insist you take the ring. While this is going on, their accomplice will sneak up behind you and get into your wallet or purse. The idea is to keep you distracted so that you do not notice what is going on around you.
How to avoid it: When approached by such strangers who try to grab your attention, make sure all valuables are at hand, or in sight.
5. Your accommodation is closed.
After traveling for a long time, you might be eager to get to your hotel/motel for some rest. As you are on your way, the driver will try to give you some cons about the place you have rented or tell you that the place is closed down. They will then offer to take you to a better place which would provide accommodation for a fair price. This is actually a scam. The cabbies are offering you a place operated by a friend or family member in exchange for a cut of your booking fee.
How to avoid it: Call your hotel/motel in advance and inform them of your travel plans.
6. The 3-monte (a.k.a The Shell Game).
The Shell Game is a famous method used by scammers in Europe. Also known as 3-Monte, the form of street game is something a majority of people fall for. A man has three cups or match boxes and one ball. He rotates the items in front of a crowd, flicking and moving the ball between the boxes or cups. He stops, and if you’re willing to put money down, you can guess where the ball is and win slightly more than what you were willing to bet. Sadly, you will never win, because the scammer will use sleight of hand to ensure the ball is never there; even if you did guess correctly.
How to avoid it: Simple. Don’t play. If you see a crowd gathered around the scammer, don’t be fooled. They are usually working with the scammer and that’s why you will see them win.
7. Someone spills a drink on you.
If you ever encounter a situation where someone accidentally spills a drink on you, keep an eye out for your valuables. The spiller is actually distracting you from the fact that they’re picking your pocket.
How to avoid it: If someone spills a drink on you, apologizes profusely and won’t stop mopping up the mess, immediately get up and ensure that your valuables are at place.